MGWCC #470

crossword 7:36 
meta 1-2 minutes 


hello and welcome to episode #470 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Sign Stealing”. this week 1 puzzle kicks off guest constructor month, and is brought to us by the trio of amanda chung, karl ni, and erik agard. last week i expressed a hope that we’d see representation from women constructors during guest constructor month, and i’ve already gotten my wish here in week 1! (now i can continue to hope that more, or even most, of the upcoming puzzles will also feature women constructors!)

anyway, the puzzle has a great backstory that you can read about at matt’s site, but let’s look at the meta. the instructions, which i did not read prior to solving, are as follows: Someone’s been pilfering letters from local restaurant signs! As managers struggle to adapt, it’s up to you to solve this heinous crime. The meta answer is the culprit.

usually the meta instructions only affect the meta, so skipping them during a week 1 doesn’t make things that much tougher. this time, though, reading the instructions sure would have helped me solve the crossword, because the eight theme clues did not make a ton of sense to me out of context. here they are:

  • {“Yellow paint, fuzzy dice, fare meter… anything else we need to stock?” (1)} JOE’S C(r)AB SHACK.
  • {“Great, now it looks like we sell miniatures” (2)} WHIT(e) CASTLE.
  • {“Where do we put the inflatable mattresses?” (3)} (d)AIRY QUEEN. this was the first theme answer i encountered, in the northwest, and i confidently plunked down AIRY QUERY because the clue was in the form of a question. welp.
  • {“How’s the market for expensive aquarium decorations?” (4)} GOLDEN COR(r)AL.
  • {“Restaurant to outdoor concert venue is quite the pivot” (5)} (o)LIVE GARDEN.
  • {“What would we even sell? Alarm clocks? Cattle prods?” (6)} (b)URGER KING.
  • {“Savory to sweet, at least it’s still food” (7)} MACARON(i) GRILL.
  • {“Happy Hour Special – half off for crazy hair-dos” (8)} WILD WI(n)G CAFE.

cute theme! i like both the answers and the clues to most of these. as for the meta, it’s very straightforward—order the clues by parenthetical number (as i’ve done) and look at what letter has been “stolen” from each restaurant sign. they spell out RED ROBIN, another chain restaurant, and apparently the sign thief. and they would have gotten away with it if not for us meddling kids!

lots of stuff to like in this oversized 19×19 puzzle. the choicest bits:

  • {Tecmo Super Bowl or Gyromite, for example} NES GAME. right off the bat at 1-across is an entry to endear the puzzle to folks of my generation.
  • {Flourish flowerishly} BLOSSOM. this strikes me as a very agardian (not to be confused with asgardian) clue.
  • {Chop shop?} DELI. love it.
  • {Network that, as of 2017, gives out gender-neutral acting awards} MTV. hey, cool. i did not know that.
  • {Peanut butter brand that ABSOLUTELY IS NOT a homophone of that file type, don’t be ridiculous} JIF.
    i’m 100% with you, inventor steve wilhite be damned. i’m not kidding about this—he is wrong and he is propagating his wrongness.
  • {Agamemnon’s avenger} ORESTES. this is some good classical learnin’ you don’t often see in a crossword.
  • {Fork, spork, and Frork, for three} UTENSILS. wait, wait. hold it. frork?!? oh yeah, i remember hearing about this but had forgotten the ridiculous name.
  • {Reality TV show about the NFL} HARD KNOCKS. there’s plenty of fine longish fill in the grid but this one’s my favorite.

that’s all i’ve got this week on the puzzle, but i wanted to take this time to congratulate matt on being honored with the fireballcrosswords dot com indie spirit award this past weekend at the indie 500. guest constructor month was specifically cited as one of the ways matt has used his stunningly successful mgwcc to promote indie puzzlemakers. if i remember correctly, erik himself, now an unstoppable crossword superstar, got his start making metas and sending them to matt. remember this gem from guest constructor month in 2012?

so, what’d you all think?

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21 Responses to MGWCC #470

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 531 right answers this week.

    I liked the visual imagery of a red robin flying around, strategically vandalizing his competitors’ signs so potential customers thought they were something other than a restaurant.

    Thanks to Amanda, Karl, and Erik for a sweet Week 1!

  2. Amanda says:

    Fun cluing this week! But come on, lots of gi- words have a soft g: giraffe, gigolo, gibberish, ginger…

    • joon says:

      and plenty have a hard g, including literally every word in the english language starting with “gif”. plus “graphics”, which is what the g in gif stands for.

      you’re not going to convince me otherwise because otherwise is wrong.

  3. Amy L says:

    Has anyone eaten at all of these places? I never heard of any of the acrosses or of the answer. I got the answer without Google, but I had to resort to it to find out that’s the actual name of a place to eat. This was a fun puzzle because it exposed me to aspects of suburban life I’m completely unaware of.

    And now that I’ve learned about it, I really want a Frork!

    • sharkicicles says:

      I understand where you’re coming from- I only knew the theme answer from TV commercials and hadn’t heard of Wild Wing Cafe or Macaroni Grill ever. I miss the White Castle that used to be up the street though, and have had Dairy Queen ice cream and Burger King.

      That being said, I though this was an excellent puzzle with great cluing and nice non-theme fill as well. Really enjoyed it.

    • Matthew G. says:

      I was only dimly aware of RED ROBIN’s existence. I would have bet anything they were relatively new, but it turns out they have been opening franchises since the 1970s. Perhaps they just took a long time to come to the Northeast, where I live? Anyhow, before submitting my answer to the meta I did have to google RED ROBIN to make absolutely sure it’s a restaurant.

      Hard G in .gif forever! I was aghast the first time I ever heard it spoken with a soft G. It’s almost as though there are people in the world who weren’t computer lab geeks in the 90s when everyone–everyone–used the hard G.

  4. Jon says:

    Has anyone photoshopped the “Red Robin” name but with the letters from the restaurant signs that were stolen? I hope so because I’ve love to see all those different fonts together and see how they look side by side when they spell out Red Robin.

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    My favorite was Macaron Grill – which sounds like a plausible name for a French cafe. Nice job, Erik, Amanda, and Karl. I have to think the choice of Red Robin as the answer was a play on robbin’, as the dirty bird flies around stealin’ letters from competitors signs?

  6. Daniel Barkalow says:

    I thought for a while about whether the answer might be RED ROBBIN’, who only got into the restaurant business instead of the letter-theft business because someone else stole one of the Bs. Then I decided that was too complicated for Week 1, and also really silly.

    • Thomas says:

      I kept imagining that there was a second answer with a missing B and half convinced myself that the RED who was ROBBIN’ was noted redhead Wendy.

  7. Joe says:

    I solved first in AcrossLite and the numbers by the theme clues weren’t showing up. I couldn’t figure out what to do, so I tried to anagram the letters and came up with ROB DINER, which I got a chuckle out of and would be a fitting name for someone stealing things from restaurants! Eventually I looked at the PDF and figured it out.

  8. Scott says:

    This was a pretty cool puzzle. And it seemed like the meta theme was new (at least to me).

  9. sharkicicles says:

    There’s an Asian fast food place by me that also has the Chork- it’s a fork but the handle is molded into two chopsticks.

  10. Bret says:

    I forgot to try to solve it without looking at the instructions and I’m glad I did, to the point I may never try that again. This seemed much more fun to solve knowing what was going on.

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